MATCH REPORT | Gloucester Rugby 15-44 Saracens Men
Saracens Men progressed to the semi-final of the European Rugby Challenge Cup after a dominant 44-15 victory over Gloucester Rugby at Kingsholm.
The Men in Black hit the front early and never looked back, with tries from Aled Davies, Maro Itoje, Nick Tompkins, Jamie George and Duncan Taylor ensuring they will head in to the last four where they will take on either Toulon or London Irish next weekend.
Gloucester threatened early on and almost took an early lead when Louis Rees-Zammit burst down the right wing and gathered his grubber to score, but play was called back for an earlier forward pass.
Sarries then hit the front with five minutes on the clock, courtesy of the trusty boot of Owen Farrell. Sean Maitland got up brilliantly to gather an Aled Davies box-kick, and then the defender didn’t release so the captain had a simple penalty from in front of the posts to put his side 3-0 ahead.
Davies then crossed for the visitors’ opening try just three minutes later as they took control of the match early on.
Farrell’s fizzed pass in to Vincent Koch sent the Springbok through a huge hole in the defence, and then he drew in the final defender before passing inside to the Welshman who had a clear run to the line. The conversion put them 10-0 in front.
The defence was then called upon as Gloucester kicked to the corner as they looked to unleash their imperious rolling maul, but the Londoners did brilliantly and earned a turnover which sent the away fans in to raptures.
Ollie Thorley was then sent to the sin-bin for the hosts after a high tackle on Davies who had been everywhere in the opening quarter, and Farrell wasted no time in extending the lead with his second penalty as the lead grew to 13-0.
Davies then had another chance as Elliot Daly and Rotimi Segun combined superbly on the right wing and played the ball back inside to the scrum-half, but Gloucester scrambled back to haul him down.
James George was shown a yellow card for a high tackle just before the half-hour mark, and Gloucester took advantage with their first try of the night to get back in to the game.
The penalty was kicked to the corner, and their maul came out on top this time, allowing Jack Singleton to dive over from close range. The conversion from Adam Hastings was wide, so Sarries still held a 13-5 advantage.
That was the damage done from the yellow card however, as George returned just in time for Farrell to slot another penalty, pushing the lead up to 11 points which is how it stayed as the teams headed down the tunnel for half time.
Gloucester got the first points of the second half as Hastings capitalised on Sarries getting caught at the breakdown, as the Shed’s voice grew with their team enjoying plenty of ball.
A counter attack then saw Farrell release Segun down the right wing and he raced in to the 22, looking increasingly dangerous the closer he got to the line, but the defence scrambled back and the chance disappeared.
From the next attack though they took their chance, scoring their second thanks to the strength of Maro Itoje. A five metre scrum gave them the platform for Billy Vunipola to smash up to the line, and then from the next phase Itoje hammered over from just a metre out. Farrell’s extras meant his side now had a 15 point lead.
The hosts then got another yellow card as Val Rapava Ruskin killed the ball, and Nick Tompkins took full advantage with a score to put the game beyond doubt.
Farrell kicked the penalty to the corner, and then the maul powered over and allowed the Welsh centre to break away in sensational style to bring up the 30 point haul.
They showed no signs of slowing down though, and George went over for try number four on the hour mark as they started to run away with it. More penalties led to a five metre lineout, and then in trademark fashion the hooker broke off the back of the maul and dotted down in the corner. Farrell’s brilliant conversion from the touchline took them up to a 37-8 lead.
Duncan Taylor put further gloss on the scoreboard with a long-range interception try after a huge defensive set, a try which may well win a prize as one of the most popular of the season as the bench erupted to celebrate for the centre.
There was still time for a consolation score from Rees-Zammit who used his searing pace to gather a kick and score, but the night belonged to the North Londoners as Farrell smashed the ball in to the stands to confirm the win.
It was a dominant display from McCall’s men, who now await the result of Sunday’s Quarter Final to see their last four opponents.